Understanding the thermomechanical behavior of graphene-reinforced conjugated polymer nanocomposites via coarse-grained modeling

Y Wang and ZF Li and DL Sun and NS Jiang and KM Niu and A Giuntoli and WJ Xia, NANOSCALE, 15, 17124-17137 (2023).

DOI: 10.1039/d3nr03618a

Graphene-reinforced conjugated polymer (CP) nanocomposites are attractive for flexible and electronic devices, but their mechanical properties have been less explored at a fundamental level. Here, we present a predictive multiscale modeling framework for graphene- reinforced poly(3-alkylthiophene) (P3AT) nanocomposites via atomistically informed coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations to investigate temperature-dependent thermomechanical properties at a molecular level. Our results reveal reduced graphene dispersion with increasing graphene loading. Nanocomposites with shorter P3AT side chains, lower temperatures, and higher graphene content exhibit stronger mechanical responses, which correlates with polymer dynamics. The elastic modulus increases linearly with the graphene content, which slightly deviates from the "Halpin-Tsai" micromechanical model prediction. Local stiffness analysis shows that graphene possesses the highest stiffness, followed by the P3AT backbone and side chains. Deformation-induced stronger chain alignment of the P3AT backbone compared to graphene may further promote conductive behavior. Our findings provide insights into the dynamical heterogeneity of nanocomposites, paving the way for understanding and predicting their thermomechanical properties.

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